Steamboat Springs Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall said he supports a proposed statewide victim notification system that would alert victims to the status of their offender.
If implemented, the program would allow victims of serious crimes such as domestic violence, murder, sexual assault or crimes against children to use the Internet or receive phone calls for information about where an offender is being held and when the person will be released from custody.
Wall said it's a system he would utilize.
"If a person is getting out of jail or changes are being made to a restraining order, then a victim should know that," he said Tuesday. "It is an important system that we would participate in if it came to Colorado."
Wall and Undersheriff David Bustos attended last week's meeting of the County Sheriffs of Colorado in Cortez, where the program was presented.
"Everyone seemed pretty excited about it," he said. "As a result of that conference, I'm looking into how we could get online with that system."
County sheriffs have been responsible for notifying victims about offender status since the Victims Rights Amendment passed in Colorado more than 10 years ago, said Joe Pelle, Boulder County sheriff and president of the County Sheriffs group.
The County Sheriffs board has applied for a federal grant called Statewide Automated Victim Notification through the Department of Justice to receive funding for the system. The system could cost as much as $500,000 a year, which the group may ask the state to fund if grants are not available.
The Victim Information Notification Everyday, or VINE, system is being used in 1,500 communities in 41 states, Pelle said.
Receiving the grant could bring the system to some larger Colorado counties as soon as October.
"What we have in place right now - old technology, old software - is not doing the job we're trying to do," Pelle said Tuesday. "Our current system is totally dependent on humans. We're going to have errors. I'm concerned about dropping the ball."
Pelle said the automated notification system would close those gaps for errors.
Diane Moore, executive director of Advocates Against Battering and Abuse in Steamboat Springs, said the new system would be advantageous for Routt County victims.
"It sounds like a another layer to make sure there are no gaps in getting information to a victim," she said. "As I think about victims' worry, it would be nice to have the ability to get online to access that information. It's a huge benefit."
Moore said jail staff is diligent about notifying victims, although complications do arise when it takes multiple tries to reach a victim.
"I think we have a good system in place now, but it can be challenging," she said.
Pelle said 16 of Colorado's larger counties such as El Paso, Larimer and Adams would be the first to receive the automated system. Other counties potentially could be online by 2008, he said.
"The goal is to provide the best level of service to victims of crimes to allow them to mitigate what they're concerned about," he said.
An additional feature that would notify victims about changes in restraining order status could be added in the future, Pelle said.